Michael Jackson, News Media, brands and emotional connections

Why did Michael Jackson almost break the internet today?

Furthermore, why was the news of his death merely from a “source” until verified by the LA Times, CBS or ABC (whichever you saw first)?

These are questions with obvious answers, but it’s worth exploring them deeper and seeing what we can learn.

1. Why did so many more people tweet about Michael Jackson than Farrah Fawcett, or even Iran?

Michael Jackson created a story out of his life – a tragic story, most would say, but in some way or other he created an emotional connection with us, especially if we grew up in the 80s!

So when he died, it was like we lost a neighbour. Not a close friend, but someone who had become part of the furniture for those of us of a certain age.

So celebrity is really about us. They (celebrities) stand out, and they force us to think, to reflect on ourselves.

And then there’s the news media. The first reports of Jackson’s death came from the blog TMZ.com, and for what seemed like the longest time that was the only definite report that he’d died.

A few Twitterers chose not to believe the report until it was verified by “more trustworthy sources”, probably a prudent move, but it again makes you ask why… really, why?

Yes, newspapers and TV – professional journalists – are paid to check the facts, and not likely to broadcast rumour (not likely, not impossible either ahemweaponsofmassdestructionahem) … so there’s some aspect of logical decision-making there on the part of those who didn’t want to be swept along with the crowd…

…but there’s also the slightly mindless following of brands that goes along with that. I don’t mean mindless in a bad way, I just mean it in the way our minds find shortcuts so we can switch on autopilot.

And that’s all the news media really have. A brand, with an emotional connection, that says to us you can trust this information, it’s from us.

It also says – and Michael Jackson also did this – you all are sharing this experience together. It’s the echoes of the age of mass, and still something we need. We need collectively shared memories. This is one of those memories, that will be added to 9/11, Princess Diana’s death, the first man on the moon and JFK.

And that’s why many will watch the 6 o’clock news tonight – not because they don’t know Jacko is dead, but because they want to experience what everyone else is experiencing. Together.

Except for Generation C. They’re busy sharing the experience actively, on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Marie asked a question this morning:

What is the role of the 6 o’clock news to you when the news comes to us through twitter?

Here’s what people said:

What’s the new form of collective, shared experiences? I think it’s social media – and I didn’t used to think this was the case.

When Twitter came on the scene, I saw it as a tool to connect with people I wanted to meet. The people were important to me, not the method of connection. But most people don’t think like me, evidently! Tweetups have shown that Twitter as a brand is a kind of rallying cry. And yet it’s different from traditional news brands, which did all the work.

Twitter is a great brand because of what it enables us to do.

What does your brand enable people to do?

And which crowd are you in? Generation C or the 6 o’clock news? Or both?

With that thought, we bid you all a good weekend from iJump!

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